Wisdom from the (Parent)Hood 1: Reward Systems

3122985108-undermining-children-s-intrinsic-interest-with-extrinsic-rewardsAs a way to honor my parents, I’ll be writing about how they have influenced us to become who we are now. Like any earthly parent, they are not perfect, but I believe they have mostly been wise.

Some time ago, our parents were interviewed in a local radio program on how to raise kids who are “achievers”. My mom was honestly at a loss. She never did intentionally set out to push us to achieve. One thing she and our Dad did agree on, was that we would be raised in an environment where we will crave to learn. If they splurged on any kid stuff, it would be on anything educational.

We were never rewarded for getting awards or high grades. They believed that the feeling of fulfillment we get when we learn something new is reward enough for us, although they would appreciate us not for the recognition we get, but for setting out to always increase our learning. As a sign of appreciation for our hard work, we would have some kind of celebration, but we never thought of the celebration as a reward. Instead, it was an acknowledgement of our courage in facing a challenge to grow.

Even as little kids, they trained us to discern if an activity offered growth for us and to dismiss anything that would allow us to stagnate, which made it easy for us to not get addicted to the boob tube. I remember getting hooked with a digital game and my grades suffered. They did not punish me for it, but I came to a realization that I missed a lot of opportunities to learn, so I stopped. When I travelled for competitions more than I studied in my senior year in high school, which led to lower-than-usual grades, they did not freak out. Instead, they showed me how travelling exposed me to things I would never have learned inside the classroom otherwise.

So, dear Tatay and Nanay, thank you both for showing us how to value education and how to have the right attitude towards achievement. I love you to bits.

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